Study visit & Exchange of Knowledge, Oaxaca & Mexico City, 2019

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STUDY VISIT & EXCHANGE OF KNOWLEDGE — first research phase, short report

oaxaca & mexico city, 2019 olga olivares, karla rakuljic ,sabine offerlind thunberg

table of contents


Project description

06 07 12

designers as facilitators Intro Diego Mier y Terán, Colectivo de Cerámica 1050° Grados Ana Paula Fuentes

13 14 20

clay Intro Macrina Mateo, Colectivo de Mujeres del barro rojo de San Marcos Tlapazola Mizraim Cardozo, Amando mi Tierra, San Bartolo Coyotepec

26 27 30 32

food & drinks Intro Olga Cabrera, restaurant Tierra del sol Aurora Toledo, restaurant Zandunga Sosima Olivera, mezcal Colectivo Colibri


Studio visits


Exchange of knowledge and tastes






About us



project description

This project stems from the curiosity and concern to learn from each other as designers, individuals, with different professional and cultural backgrounds. We believe in the importance and power of sharing knowledge, experiences, and techniques from creatives to creatives across geographical borders. This project’s purpose is an intercultural creative exchange between three female designers from Konstfack and local artisans and designers in Oaxaca and Mexico City. We identified Oaxaca and Mexico City as our sites because of their rich, yet underexposed, craft and artisan traditions, specifically within textile, food, ceramic, and leather crafts. Crossing geographical borders, in our minds and hearts, we all share a commitment to traditional crafts and the voice of materials.

Karla Rakuljic , Olga Olivares, Sabine Offerlind Thunberg

This first research phase aims to not only inform the development of our practices but also foster the beginning of a constant collaboration between creatives in Mexico and students at Konstfack.


designers as facilitators

designers as facilitators


diego mier y terán, colectivo de cerámica 1050° grados

In the last decade, designers have come closer to exploring traditional techniques or collaborating with different artisans worldwide to develop new proposals. Unfortunately, many of these collaborations have benefit designers more than the craftsman who knows and preserves the technique that he has inherited for generations.

We met Diego on the sunny rooftop terrace of the studio and store, Colectivo de Cerámica 1050° Grados, in the center of Oaxaca City. On the ground floor, there is a store selling works by local craft women and men. Colectivo 1050° (artisan-owned cooperative) is a commercial branch of Innovando la Tradición, which is a non-profit organization that works hard to revitalize the pottery tradition in Oaxaca —the most culturally diverse state in Mexico— through social and participatory design, solidarity economy and cultural development.

Prior to our trip to Mexico, we wanted to learn more about healthy practices between designers and artisans, recognizing and respecting the artisan’s contribution. The ones that respect and value artisans years of experience and generations of knowledge. At the start of our research, we wanted to talk with designers who consider themselves to be — just a part of a chain. With their practices, they are building strategies to use the production, design, and commerce to support artisanal communities and their cultural heritage and establish networks rather than promoting hierarchical structure.

With Diego, we talked about his design background since he was studying at Konstfack and Type design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. We were curious about how he positioned himself after moving back to Mexico. He saw design as a tool to create a larger narrative to share the bigger picture. Wanting to “unlearn design”, how to let go of learned narratives, contemplating what the future is, what is desirable. How to create meaningful practice, go into the unknown. He is the second generation of designers working with artisans as equals. With them, he is making local communities stronger, creating festivities where people from different parts of the Oaxaca region meet and share their knowledge. The store, an artisan-owned cooperative in Oaxaca, presents more than seven communities of potters from Oaxaca and its surroundings. Diego’s organization edited book Fire and Clay - The Art of Oaxacan Pottery, which shares the heritage of artisanal design. The book is in Spanish and English, sharing the knowledge and stories with many others across the globe.



08 We talked with Diego on the rooftop of his studio and store Colectivo 1050°

diego mier y terĂĄn


Inside the store Colectivo 1050°

diego mier y terĂĄn

10 11

designers as facilitators


Ana Paula Fuentes


Ana Paula’s energy on the day we met her while sharing what she wholeheartedly does was addictive. Calling herself a social designer, she is a mediator of people who are proud of their culture and people who are feeling they lost it. During her guided tours, she shows the people coming from abroad that their heritage is not lost; it was just forgotten. By showing them communities that are so in tune with the environment and their surroundings, she is hoping to widen their perspective on the relationships towards each other and the environment and change many systems positively.

Clay was one of the materials we were drawn the most to explore while in Mexico since it is a common material in our work. Generations of artisans and the heritage they are passing on were so inspiring on the paper and screen, so we were very excited to book two visits to clay workshops, red clay - Colectivo de Mujeres del barro rojo de San Marcos Tlapazola, and black clay - Amando mi Tierra, San Bartolo Coyotepec. During both visits, we talked with artisans and were lucky to witness part of the process of how they create their ceramics.

We talked about the importance of the collective experience; you start with yourself, but the impact is more significant than that; it then distributes to the people you share or inhabit the same space.



clay macrina mateo, colectivo de mujeres del barro rojo de san marcos tlapazola

Macrina welcomed us with a big smile at the Colectivo de Mujeres del barro rojo de San Marcos Tlapazola. She lives and works there with a specific red clay, together with 11 other women. The process of making ceramics from “el barro rojo� starts by harvesting clay in the nearby mountain, cleaning it, and preparing for shaping. They then use tools made from corn stick, rubber, and pumpkin to create desired shape and texture. After a few days of drying, clay is ready to be fired. The whole process, from harvesting the clay to fired ceramics, takes approximately ten days.


How they used to fire clay

Macrina Mateo showing her proces of making ceramics

Traditionally, the clay was fired on the open flame in the street or squares, but in recent years, more and more collectives are investing in ceramic kiln. That transition resulted in easier and more healthy fireing since there are no direct inhaling of the released fumes.




Macrina started working with clay when she was eight. At that time, ceramic pieces were exchanged for food, such as corn, chili, and onion. Her mother was forbidding her to go outside the village and pursued her to only work with clay. In the last decade or so, thanks to Diego and team Colectivo de Ceråmica 1050° Grados and others, she traveled and held presentations in all states in Mexico. She also went to North America: Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, and finally, an exhibition at MoMA in New York. She gives ten days or day workshops in her studio space.


Macrina showing her proces of making ceramics

All that is happening to her now, the travels, and all the people around the world visiting her were never something she dreamt of. So the thing that was dragging her to stay in the village - clay, is now the reason she is traveling the world.

Macrina showing her mentions in various books

macrina mateo


Mizraim preparing to open the ground kiln


Mizraim Cardozo is a member of a younger generation of artisans in San Bartolo Coyotepec. His family is producing clay for many years; almost everyone is participating in production since they start when they are quite young. Mizraim’s father Amando, polished his craft while learning from Japanese potter. That exchange of knowledge brought fusion in their clay production, and all the younger generation are following fathers’ steps. Mizraim recalled stories of how 60 years ago, ceramic objects were made just for personal purposes. The start of tourism in the region brought people who wanted to buy their pieces, so they started a business.

Variety of objects produced at Amando mi Tierra

Polishing clay with quarz

Like Macrina, but also many others working with clay in Mexico, they are harvesting the clay at the nearby mountain. The clay they are working within San Bartolo Coyotepec turns black when fired, which they are famous for. Since the strong waves of tourism a couple of years ago, they started using machines to help them in the preparation of the clay for the molds. Black clay from Amando mi Tierra workshop is not glazed. To protect and give more affordances to the clay, such as the ability to pour liquids, the clay that is not yet fired is treated with oil and sponges and polished with quartz.

Raw clay mixed with water


mizraim cardozo, amando mi Tierra, san bartolo coyotepec




After drying, the clay pieces are carefully placed in the ground kilns they made themselves. We were lucky enough that they were opening the top of the kiln at the time of our visit.

As a part of a younger generation, he mixes other professions with clay - mechanical engineering and music. He is combining it with light elements for installations and murals, making meaningful and symbolic pieces. The idea for the fusion happened while he was studying in Canada, since he was always returning to clay. So he decided to combine his interests and become more of an artist.


Mizraim showing his pattern for a mural.

mizraim cardozo

Hand build oven, covered and open.

mizraim cardozo


food & drinks

food & drinks


olga cabrera, restaurant tierra del sol

Going to Mexico, we knew we wanted to talk with people working with food since it is an essential part of every culture. To establish an exchange of knowledge, we wanted to get introduced to the ingredients that grow there, for most of them unknown to Karla and Sabine. We met with three strong women who not only told about food-related practices in their cuisines and distillery, but shared hardship that went behind the scenes, and how they got where they are now. Olga Cabrera, Aurora Toledo, and Sosima Olivera introduced us to their personal and business world, with the latter mostly male-dominated. Their struggles to succeed and their mutual help in the female food circle were a great inspiration to us, three female designers who went, or will go through inequality in the work environment. Female empowerment is something that we strongly felt meeting these women and will be a guiding element for all the future stages of this project.

We met Olga early morning in her restaurant. While we had a conversation, she introduced us to different traditional dishes from the Mixteca. These recipes reflect her roots and heritage from the most important women in her life, her mother, grandmother, and great grandmother. Olga told us about how she captivated many clients with her flavors, including the famous artist, Lila Downs, who supported her to open a new restaurant in her grandmother’s house.

Karla, Sabine and Olga with chef Olga Cabrera.

Family and culinary traditions have been an essential part of Olga’s life; she cooks with local ingredients, and for interior design, she integrates art and crafts made in Oaxaca. Together with other restaurant colleagues, they have created a community to empower women. The open kitchen makes you experience making tortillas and the dishes that make your stomach and soul happy.



28 Chef Olga putting chepiche on a huevo escondido (hidden egg).

Part of the Tierra del sol kitchen

olga cabrera


food & drinks

Chef Aurora Toledo sharing her story.

aurora toledo, restaurant zandunga

We met Aurora in Zandunga; her restaurant founded seventeen years ago, where they serve food from the Istmo, a mixed flavors from her childhood at the jungle in San Miguel Chimalapa, Oaxaca. During our conversation, she transported us to her memories, tastes, and stories about how she started one of the most popular restaurants in Oaxaca City. Aurora has created a space for preserving dishes from her hometown while innovating with local ingredients. Since Zandunga opened, she made alliances with local producers, women-led kitchens, building a strong community woman that helps each other. Zandunga is a meeting point for people passionate about cooking. They have activities such as “trips through the kitchen” where they invite cooking enthusiasts from different parts of the world to share their culture through food and stories from their countries; or “taste the word” where women share stories about his life, fears, and tips on how to face fears.

Sabine, Olga and Karla with chef Aurora.

Zandunga is, more than a restaurant, it is a meeting place between the culture, food, and love from Aurora Toledo.



food & drinks


sosima explaining mezcal production process

sosima olivera’s mezcal brand

sosima olivera, mezcal colectivo colibri

Sosima received us in the garden of a neighborhood in the center of Oaxaca. She told us about the history of mezcal and the importance of knowing what is behind this traditional drink that has been present in Mexican culture since ancient times in rituals, ceremonies, and for medicinal purposes. Sosima is the fourth generation of a mezcal producers family. She is originally from San Miguel Suchitepec, Oaxaca, one of the few mezcal women. Tres colibrís is the name of the cooperative to which it belongs together with eight families. She has been concerned with sharing knowledge about mezcal to promote ethical and ecological practices, extolling the importance of collective work, the context, and supporting local consumption. “When mezcal produced industrially, it loses the meaning; For native people, mezcal is only the pretext to unite the community and work as a team.” The mezcal industry has brought economic benefits in the short term, but there is an elemental loss of cultural values in a long time. Villages are beginning to domesticate wild agave species, renting hectares for mass producers, destroying the ecosystem in response to two very different worlds. Only knowledge and respect for cultural value can preserve the traditions where mezcal celebrates life and death.


Paulina Lรณpez in her showroom

studio visits - mexico city

Rodete x Paulina Lรณpez Paulina received us in a collective space shared with an olfactory studio and an interior design studio. She began her practice as a fashion designer, but it was in jewelry that she found her passion. Paulina combines artisanal and innovative techniques and science. We exchange concerns about the boundaries between art and design, how she started her studio, and how she has managed to maintain a commercial line alongside more experimental projects such as sculpture and performance. We share perspectives from Mexico and Sweden as the context influences and shapes your practice and how it is crucial to begin to open collaborations, conversations, and exchange knowledge between different geographical areas. In the end, we share many more similarities than one might imagine.


Olga, Sabine and Karla with Paulina

After an intense week in Oaxaca, we arrived at CDMX, a megacity with 21 million inhabitants. In the city, the perspective of the makers is different. Design studios have a more contemporary view; there is a global influence of trends. However, in the same way, as in Oaxaca, there is a feeling of community and brotherhood among design firms. Time in the city runs differently, even though people are with a fast pace of daily life, traffic and long distances limit time and quality of life. During our stay, we visited four design studios and talked with their founders about their work and their challenges throughout their careers: jewelry, textiles, furniture, and chocolate.


Part of a building where DejateQuerer and La Metropolitana studio work

studio visits - mexico city

We met Héctor Galván in his home and studio

DejateQuerer / La Metropolitana The next stop was a visit to the DejateQuerer studio, in a space that was previously a textile factory. Ana Paula and Rocío develop collections of modular rugs with wool felt. The assemblies made by hand and the range of colors are personalized for each client, creating an infinite combination of colors and textures. They gave us a guided tour of the entire building where we could see the work of La Metropolitana (industrial design studio) and Buna coffee roaster. Although each one has an independent space, they share a showroom area, and there is a strong feeling of solidarity and collaboration.

Héctor’s soup of the last pieces of fresh vegetables before winter.


La Casa Tropical x Héctor Galván Héctor is a well known creative in the world of design and gastronomy for his unique style and multidisciplinary perspective. He has worked on projects related to fashion, industrial design, architecture, and chocolate. In the last ten years, it has focused on the research and production of high-quality cacao, promoting the preservation and recognition of Mexican origin species. We are in Xochimilco, a market south of the city, where it is the point of sale of products from the region and endless plants. After walking a bit, we went to his house, where we dined simple and exquisite Mexican dishes. He showed us his house, where he grows herbs and vegetables for personal consumption, a chicken coop, and another section of the office and a laboratory where he develops chocolate experiments. His home is an inspiring space full of details and deep conversations. It is an environment that encourages creativity, community, and innovation.


There is a lot of knowledge that is impossible to find in books or school, which is inherited or learned through experience. It is this knowledge exchange between makers and industries that could help us improve as a global society. Food is something that can break down mental and geographical barriers, in addition to experiencing sensations and memories with all the senses. Sharing food and everything that generated around the action of eating makes us approach people differently.

Variety of food from Sweden and Croatia

exchange of knowledge and tastes

Chef Olga Cabrera

To start the conversation about knowledge exchange, we brought different food both from Sweden and Croatia. In Oaxaca, we bought a plate from Colectivo 1050° and bowls from Macrina Mateo and served it at some of our meetings. In the context of restaurants and workshops, it was more convenient to pack the food, so we made small packages with sweet ingredients such as different types and textures of licorice and dried figs. Everyone reacted positively, especially chefs Olga nad Aurora. After tasting the licorice root, Olga mentioned that she would keep it in her chef jacket and use it to “neutralize” taste after tasting some dishes in her kitchen.

croatia Salted anchovies from Omiš Black truffle and olive pesto made by Zigante, Istria Motar, wild plant that is growing on rock by the sea, from Lastovo island Olive oil from Jesenice Dried figs from Jesenice


Chef Aurora Toledo

List of what we brought: sweden Caramel slate from Offerdal, Jämtland Salty licorice fishes from Malmö Cloudberry jam from Grangärde Licorice Roots from Ramlösa Crispbread with fennel and buckwheat from Tre kullor


Chapulines, dried grasshoppers


Olga As a Mexican, visiting my country with my colleagues from Konstfack was an enriching experience; I was able to observe my country’s design and crafts from various angles while also talking about cultural contrasts. Many different realities made us reflect together on our practice as designers. Things that I considered obvious, through other eyes, were peculiar. Concepts such as sustainability and “local products” were indifferent in the Oaxacan context because it is common to work with local products and people from the region. Social problems and inequalities are more visible than in developing countries and directly impact both the creative industries and daily life. Values that stand out in contrast to Sweden are solidarity, a sense of community, and women’s empowerment. In the field of design, aspects related to traditional techniques are quite recurrent in proposals. In crafts, you can see the knowledge inherited by generations and more projects with collaborative systems that are making these techniques last and replicate. I think there is a space to learn from each other, breaking boundaries to create a more diverse and universal movement.

Cactus forest

The people we encountered during our journey really took the time and effort to engage with us and shared their experiences, wisdom, and outlook on life. The people and their strong community, together with collective thinking and solidarity, gave us the opportunity to learn from each other. Most of all, it was an opportunity to learn how to bring people together and strive for alternative ways to change systems or people’s mindset.

Food market Madre Selva in Mexico City


Karla and Sabine The impressions of our journey were numerous. For example, to come to a city that is so full of life and with several layers of inspiration widen our mindset. The environment that surrounded us emerged with closeness to raw materials such as ingredients for food, materials like clay, and rich history of the process of craftsmanship. With this rich inspiration gave us a wider understanding of how to cultivate and give back to the planet and the people itself.



about us

This research trip was the first step towards achieving a more significant impact through cultural exchange. We knew we wanted to go deeper into that topic, and this trip was a perfect first exploration. We met so many different people, talked about problems that are affecting localities but also global scale. We heard stories we were curious about and got inspired by many others that came unexpectedly. Co-existence, co-creation, sustainability, and many other popular keywords used in Europe, can be broadened with the knowledge that is, for many generations, just part of the everyday behavior of people in Mexico. We felt very inspired by the female empowerment, which needs to be more present and is an idea we will continue promoting. We feel an enormous potential in projects like these, and we are going to keep the dialogue and create other stages of this cultural exchange.

Olga Olivares, a Social Entrepreneur and Designer from Konstfack, specialized in experimental and concept design. She co-founded and directed Taller Nu for six years, a slow- fashion company in Mexico City that combined design & social impact. She is interested in collaborative and interdisciplinary practices. Nowadays she is exploring the intersection between culture, food and design.

Since our trip was full of impressions and new ideas, we wanted to share a part of it with our professors and colleagues at Konstfack. We bought a few foods in Mexico City that we wanted to incorporate into the project presentation. The idea was to prepare a visual journey explanation that would be accompanied by some small tastings. Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to do it right after we came back due to the tight degree schedule, and since the COVID-19 pandemic came, all gatherings were no longer possible. So our story will be told differently sometime later.

Sabine Offerlind Thunberg is a Swedish designer/artist based in Stockholm. With a focus on the sensorial experience driven by material, formgiving and craftsmanship, Sabine explores everyday patterns and how shapes, people interact with the environment.

Karla Rakuljic is designer and artist from Croatia. Her creative investigations often lead to collaborations with interdisciplinary people, using food, spaces, objects and experiences as tools to discuss and imagine more responsible society.

Even though we finished our studies, we are still waiting for a degree certificate.




Estrid-Ericsons Stiftelse Katja Pettersson Senior Lecturer at Konstfack Jenny Althoff Senior Lecturer at Konstfack Martin Avila Professor at Konstfack Diego Mier y Terán founder of Colectivo de Cerámica 1050° Grados Macrina Mateo founder of Colectivo de Mujeres del barro rojo Amando Pedro co founder of Amando mi Tierra Olga Cabrera founder of Tierra del sol Aurora Toledo founder of Zandunga Sosima Olivera founder of mezcal Colectivo Colibri Ana Paula Fuentes Social designer / Executive Director of CADA Foundation Åsa Hamneståhl Head of Culture, Society and Press at the Swedish Embassy in Mexico City Héctor Galván founder of La Casa Tropical Paulina Rodete founder of Rodete Studio Ana Paula Alatriste from DejateQuerer La Metropolitana Alejandro Gutiérrez and industrial designers Rodrigo Escobedo and Mauricio Guerrero Our families in Mexico, Sweden and Croatia.


oaxaca & mexico city, 2019 olga olivares, karla rakuljic ,sabine offerlind thunberg

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